Last night I saw the performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni at Glyndebourne. The classification of his opera is neither opera seria or opera buffa (light opera), but drama giacoso (comic crama) and this reflects an opera that is both amusing and serious. Jonathan Kent’s production placed it in the late 1950s to reflect a time when the new sexual and moral values of the sixties were just being perceived. Whether the theatre or opera, I prefer the dress to reflect the period of the setting but each director likes to leave his imprint on a well-known piece.
There is no more pleasant place in England than Glyndebourne on a warm summer Sussex evening. We picnicked and had to decamp at speed to the shelter of a tree when the rain came. There we encountered a flustered but elegant Robert Tickler -resplendent in a white tux and red carnation, fancy woman in tow- who was agitating around his butler on how best protect his cold lobster thermidor and wild strawberries when the heavens opened. The ingenuity of the picnickers impressed me: one fellow in black tie was pushing a fork-lift trolley as you might see in an factory with a supper of fine food and wine. You could see these denizens must have been coming for the past 40 years. Glynebourne is a mix of the corporates and hardy perennials but, at the cheapest ticket of £165 before any meal, not for the bargain hunter.
Elliot Madore was a powerful Don Giovanni both in voice and manner. That the genius of Mozart creates so much of the drama in his music is no excuse for wooden acting and Madore had all the smooth presence of the Great Seducer. He delivered the famous seducing aria Place your Hand in Mine with great aplomb and Zerlina, beautifully played by the soprano Lenka Macikov, responds cautiously. The Bratislavan soprano is surely a star in the making as the power of her voice belied her slight frame.
As for the production, the sets – a rotating cube – were of the high standard that you expect from Glyndebourne. The whole ensemble was a marvellous evening of both theatricality and musicality. On the journey home I found myself ruminating on the genius that was Mozart. It’s fun but ultimately fruitless to argue who was the greatest composer of all, but one contention is undeniable: Mozart produced works of genius at every level of music: opera, symphonies, chamber, church and sonati. Beethoven only wrote one opera, Verdi and Wagner no symphonies and Schubert and Haydn not one opera between them. For Don Giovanni, Mozart worked with Italian librettist Lorenzo Ponte, who must have had some empathy with Don Giovanni as he, as a priest, was chased out of Venice for an impropriety.
Expensive? Indubitably – but I doubt if any present felt short changed.